Little LojaFebruary 22 in Ecuador
Our first stop in Ecuador was a small city in the south of the country called Loja, about eight and a half hours from Piura in Peru. Founded in 1548, the town is proud of being the oldest city in Ecuador. The climate, at 2060 metres above sea level, is cooler than the hot desert of northern Perú and with much greener vegetation. The border crossing at La Tina and Macara was straightforward and relaxed. Immigration officers did not seem to be too concerned about national or bio-security. Well, they let through two Australian itinerants and about eight other people with little hassle, only rummaging haphazardly through a couple of bags.
Once we crossed the border, this was when the real fun began. The bus went round and round the mountains, switchback after switchback. Within thirty minutes of the rollercoaster ride, we both started to suffer from motion sickness. Neither of us had ever experienced motion sickness before but then this bus ride was like nothing that we had experienced either. Ricky was almost concussed as the bus threw him from side to side and propelled him out the toilet door, hitting his head on the overhead compartment. This did nothing for the motion sickness. For four hours, we sat trying not to vomit and hoping for this journey from hell to end. Finally we arrived in Loja around 8:30pm and took a taxi to our hotel situated in the downtown area. Even at the hotel, we felt as if we had been taken out the washing machine after the turbo spin-cycle. A cup of tea and a lie down was in order, although the very, small double-bed could hardly fit two six-foot-plus guys.
After a night's rest and recovering from the motion sickness, we set out to explore the downtown area. Much of the city seemed to be under construction with road works but at least the traffic didn't seem to be stuck in a game of Carmageddon trying to mow down pedestrians. The downtown area is filled with a number of plazas and colonial style buildings: Central Park, Cathedral of Loja, San Francisco Church and Park, San Sebastian Church and Simón Bolivar Park. The downtown area of the city is only small so it was easily traversed within a few hours.
We only intended to stop in Loja for a short period to break up the journey to the north of Ecuador and after two nights it was time to move on. As we checked out of the hotel, there seemed to be some confusion about the hotel bill. According to our reading of the booking information, the total amount should have been less than the requested amount. We have become accustomed to people trying to pull the wool over our eyes to take advantage of the ignorant tourist. We questioned the amount and after a few exchanges we were still no clearer on the difference. We left paying what we thought was the correct amount and which matched the advertised rates behind the check-in counter. It wasn't until later that we re-read our booking confirmation that we saw in small fine print that the taxes were excluded from the total costs. Once we became aware of our error, we contacted the hotel to apologise for the misunderstanding and asked how we could rectify the situation. However, their response made no sense to us, even after using Google Translate. So we are no closer to resolving the situation. The booking was in Jason’s name so we hope he isn't hauled off to an Ecuadorian prison to become the top dog's bitch.
Next stop: Cuenca.
For video footage, see: